NEW YORK (AP) – New government data suggests pregnancy-related deaths within the U.S. have dropped to pre-pandemic levels.

Last 12 months, about 680 women died while pregnant or shortly after giving birth, according to the CDC’s provisional data. This is down from 817 deaths in 2022 and 1,205 in 2021, which was the very best level in greater than 50 years.

The most important reason for the advance appears to be the coronavirus, according to Donna Hoyert, a maternal mortality researcher on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The coronavirus could also be particularly dangerous for pregnant women. During the worst days of the pandemic, burnt-out doctors may have increased their risk by ignoring the troubles of pregnant women, experts say.

Fewer death certificates list Covid-19 because the reason for pregnancy-related deaths. Hoyert said the number was over 400 in 2021, but last 12 months there have been fewer than 10.

On Thursday, the agency released a report detailing final maternal mortality data for 2022. It also recently released interim data for 2023. The numbers are expected to change after further evaluation – the ultimate 2022 figure was 11% higher than the interim figure . Still, 2023 is predicted to be worse than 2022, Hoyert said.

The CDC counts women who die while pregnant, during labor and up to 42 days after delivery from conditions considered pregnancy-related. The most important causes are excessive bleeding, blockages in blood vessels and infections.

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According to provisional data, in 2023 there have been roughly 19 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births. This is consistent with rates observed in 2018 and 2019.

But racial disparities remain: the death rate for black moms is greater than two and a half times higher than for white and Latino moms.

“We haven’t really made any progress in lowering the maternal death rate in our country over the last five years, so there’s still a lot of work to be done,” said Ashley Stoneburner, director of applied research and analytics at March of Dimes.

This week, the organization launched an academic campaign to encourage more pregnant women to consider taking low-dose aspirin in the event that they are vulnerable to preeclampsia, a hypertension disease that may harm each mother and baby.

There are other efforts that might help reduce deaths and lingering health problems related to pregnancy, including increasing efforts to fight infections and stop blood loss, according to Dr. Laura Riley, an obstetrician in New York who treats high-risk pregnancies. .

However, there may be a risk that such improvements will probably be offset by a lot of aspects which will limit women’s ability to obtain medical care before, during and after childbirth, she added. Experts say the list includes rural hospital closures and a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a federally established right to abortion and contributed to physician burnout by leaving doctors feeling limited in providing emergency care. pregnancy-related cases.

“I think we have good news. We are making progress in some areas,” said Riley, chief ob-gyn at Weill Cornell Medicine. “But the bad and terrifying news is that… there are other political and social forces that make it (reducing maternal deaths) more difficult.”

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